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Political Science
POLI 344
Jason Scott Ferrell

January 24, 2013 The French Revolution Ideals and the French Revolution • Constructivism becomes important for helping explain the French Revolution • Ideas play a huge role in the context of France (compared to Prussia and Britain) • Ideas in England are marshaled in the service of economic interest o In Prussia ideas are important only when defining state’s interest o In service of the material interests of a particular class/state • In France the ideational interests can be distinguished from material interests o Become a powerful means of mobilizing the public  Not just a class struggle for power or resources • Industrialization in France – the bourgeoisie ends up becoming a part of nobility (can buy their titles) and do not develop their own class interest o Industrial base is weaker compared to England • The nobility initially begins to challenge the Crown in the name of freedom/liberty  Put in place a set of enlightenment ideas o Need to be limitations upon absolute power • Nature is no longer considered a viable justification for the stratification of society or the King’s absolute role o Reason takes precedence over nature – everyone has the use of reason • Justification for Revolution based on freedom but also equality vs. privilege • Source of legitimacy for the state has to reside with the public • Freedom and equality are universal values and therefore apply to everyone – not just to a certain select few o In England rights are determined according to socio-economic interests  Nobility are protecting their economic rights from the King • Universality of these values lends itself to a crusading spirit  Values that everyone can enjoy and adopt, not only in France o Universality of these concepts makes the Revolution internationally threatening • Also a strong sense of nationalism  Strong association of these values with France (National Pride) • Individual winds up being subordinate to the community in this context • Tension exists between freedom and equality o Compatible but logically distinct and pull against each other o If you are going to achieve equality you need to put boundaries on personal liberty Radicalization of Revolution • Politicization of all segments of society and eventual radicalization of the Revolution in the pursuit of these values o Especially on the part of urban and agrarian lower classes (Third Estate) • As the monarchy crumbled there is a greater form of autonomy within local communities • Supports of the National Assemblies begin to form new municipal governments which purge those loyal to the Crown from their ranks • Recruit new local militias to serve as a counter to royal militias • National Constituent Assembly tries to placate the lower classes in these local areas by attempting to abolish noble and clerical pr
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